Kill Your Television (remember that old bumper sticker!)
I realize that the TV writer's strike was a huge gift to me. At first, I'll admit, I was irritated because I was hooked on a bunch of shows, most of them trashy or inane, just like a junkie. I'm a sucker for character studies and ongoing stories so I gave precious hours to Grey's Anatomy and Dirty Sexy Money and American Idol (last year). Now I'm not saying these shows are all bad, in fact sometimes they've been really good, but in the wake of having little to watch on TV I started reading again. I mean with consistency and joy. The kind of reading where, as soon as I've finished a book, I must immediately find another one because I get so much out of it. I've probably read more books since the writer's strike began than I did in a year of graduate school. In fact, often now I'll even try to watch TV, and find myself picking back up the waiting book.
Now that these old shows are returning to the air, I find myself irritated. Do I really want to get back into the habit? I let American Idol fall by the wayside this year and let me tell you what a relief that has been! I'm so glad not to care who's made it, who's going to get exploited by the obscenely uber-rich Simon Cowell, squashed, humiliated, and then arbitrarily pumped up for a measley million bucks, only to fade into obscurity again. I realize that on some level, I have actually always hated that show. I know that sounds odd, considering how lavishly I once watched it, but I'm serious...something about it always made me feel kind of ill.
I don't begrudge others who watch their TV. I admit I watched all 8 of the new episodes of Lost online (I never stay up to watch it live). But overall I really don't miss TV. In fact, unless there's something really innovative or informative on, I sort of resent its existence.
The thing is, when times get tougher, as they are in the American economy, I think people turn more to their escapism than ever before. So I imagine that a post like this will get largely ignored, but that's okay. It's also coming from a place of thinking about our coming child and how we want him to be raised in relationship to TV. Like many parents, I'd rather he be out playing than on his ass watching crap.
So today's moral is: go read a book. You'd be amazed what's out there, or "in there" really, in the world of your mind. As one of my favorite writers, Paul Auster says, "Every novel is an equal collaboration between the writer and the reader and it is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy." (Though non-fiction is great too...whatever it takes!)
Some of my recent favorites:
No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Helping Me Help Myself, Beth Lisick
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger
Madapple, Christina Meldrum
Falling Under, Danielle Younge-Ullman
Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (not that she needs any advertising)